As the economy of most regions of the world continues to struggle, growth in Sub-Saharan Africa continues to be solid. In its latest Global Employment Trends 2014 report which came out on Wednesday, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates the region’s year-on-year GDP growth in 2013 at 4.8 percent.
Although that figure is slightly below the growth rates seen in recent years, it is still the third fastest regional growth rate, after East Asia and South-East Asia and the Pacific. On the whole, Sub-Saharan Africa’s growth is high in comparison with the 1990s. From 1991 to 2000, regional economic growth averaged 2.3 percent annually, compared with an average of 5.7 percent during 2001ÔÇô12. The ILO estimates that in 2013 and with the exception of only two countries (Central African Republic and Equatorial Guinea), more than half of the countries in Sub-Saharan Africa realised economic growth rates of at least 5 percent.
“Furthermore, the current economic outlook suggests that regional growth rates of at least 5 percent are sustainable, provided that global economic conditions do not weaken exports or reduce inflows of investment and aid,” the report says.
On the downside, there has been no corresponding increase in quality of employment and life for a majority of Africans. At 77.4 percent, the vulnerable employment rate in Sub-Saharan Africa is the highest in the world. Vulnerable jobs (the opposite of “decent” ones) are the kind that don’t provide any kind of security and pay very low wages. The ILO says that faced with “underdeveloped or non-existent social protection systems”, a large share of the working-age population in Africa is forced to take up vulnerable jobs in order to provide for their families.
“As a consequence, the labour force participation rate across all labour market groups is estimated at 70.8 per cent in 2013, and Sub-Saharan Africa is the only region in which the male adult labour force participation rate is projected to rise in 2014 and 2015,” the report says.
Currently that rate stands at 87.5 percent and is expected to go up to 87.6 percent this year and 87.7 per cent next year.
The region has done poorly in terms of creating a manufacturing sector that is an engine of paid employment creation. Citing Ghana as a perfect example, the report says that the country’s industrial sector is composed mainly of mining and construction, while manufacturing has been declining as a share of GDP in the last two decades.
Sub Saharan Africa has also not done well to improve the share of industry in GDP which has decreased from 30.7 per cent in 1991 to 29.7 per cent in 2011. In terms of employment, the share of workers in industry is estimated at less than 10 per cent which ILO deems “extremely low.”